How are people dressing when in lockdown and isolation situations? How is this different to the way they dressed before? Has it affected their sense of self? This project aims to shine a light on those changes and reveal some of the many and varied personal stories relating to fashion and dress in 2020. Today’s interview is with Dr Benjamin Wild. Benjamin is a Lecturer in Contextual Studies (Fashion) at Manchester Metropolitan University. You can find him on Instagram (@benjamin__wild) and Twitter (@DrBenjaminWild).
1) Can you describe what your personal style was before lockdown?
If you were to ask colleagues and students about my style signifiers before the lockdown, I suspect they would mention my seemingly ceaseless supply of different pairs of glasses and penchant for roll-necks. I prefer clothing that defines my body’s silhouette – so, tailored or close-fitting – and enjoy texture and colour-blocking, although I would never introduce more than three colours into an outfit.
2) How would you describe your style now?
The roll-necks are out and I have tended to wear fewer pairs of glasses for a longer number of consecutive days. Curiously, I have also become aware of how heavy some of my frames are. I deliberately avoid wearing ‘loungewear’ during the day, chiefly because I have tried to maintain as normal a working rhythm as I can. If I were to wear more relaxed clothing, my feeling (worry) is that I might, over time, become less inclined to focus. I have not put this theory to the test, and I am happy with that! That said, I do wear sweatpants or shorts of an evening after exercising, but this is not a departure from the norm. The weather has been frustratingly pleasant since the lockdown began – in September, I moved to the North of England, which is justifiably infamous for its poor climate, and the weather during the period of lockdown has been the nicest I’ve known it. Typical! – so I have tended to wear thin, cotton tops, occasionally shirts. I am very grateful for my Mads Nørgaard ‘101’ tops, which I bought on a recent trip to Copenhagen, and I am likely to buy more.
3) What’s your shoe situation at home? And how does this affect your sense of self?
I love shoes and have … several pairs. I consider shoes to be the all-important punctuation for an outfit, and genuinely feel a look is incomplete or lacking if the shoe choice is wrong, whether casually or for work. Whilst I have continued to shoe-browse and -shop online, I pad about in socks in my apartment and tend to wear more casual styles when I do go out. I suppose the absence of shoes to punctuate an outfit is perhaps a reason why I am choosing to wear relatively practical/smart-ish clothes around the home, to promote a sense of ‘carry on’. Needless to say, I am looking forward to giving my shoes an airing when the lockdown lifts.
4) What are the social situations you find yourself in now (even if remotely), and how do you dress for them?
Most of my social situations can be summed up with one word, and programme: Zoom. I have been ‘meeting’ with colleagues and students throughout the lockdown. I have also continued to record a podcast that I co-host, Dress: Fancy, remotely through Zoom. My main brief before going live is to ensure I look recognisable, which essentially means keeping my curly hair tamed and making sure my laptop is strategically positioned so any light does not extenuate the dark circles under my eyes. I suspect I normally do this; I am now just conscience of it.
5) Has your approach to fashion and style changed as a result of the current situation?
I think it has made me appreciate the ‘worth’ of garments more, in terms of them being of good quality and well-made. The suits I wear are bespoke and favourite brands include Drakes and Anderson & Sheppard, so I have always valued craft and durability in the clothes I wear, but I certainly feel this appreciation has deepened as I have come to rely more consciously on my clothing to galvanise my mood and to motivate me. Generally, I think I have also become more eager to support local businesses. At the moment, this is easier to do with food shops than it is clothing stores because the latter are closed, even online, but I do think I will be more inclined to think and buy locally going forward.
If you’d like to take part in the project yourself, you can find all the information you need in the blog post entitled ‘Lockdown Fashion: an exploration of dressing at home in 2020‘ dated 9th April 2020.